It doesn’t have the guts to be badass. Red Dawn is deliberate teen idol treatment – the backyard boys of America raise arms to defend ourselves against North Korea. Except the boys are stock characters played by Chris Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson and Josh Peck, and their travails are captured by jerky-cam. Some tough girls fight, too, but they matter even less to us. Isabel Lucas and Adrianne Palicki are the two pre-requisite blondes. The band of kid revolutionaries grab some artillery and name themselves “Wolverines,” and make base in the forest just outside Spokane, Washington. In downtime, half-wit comments are made about the evil of North Korea. A second confederate seems to be backing them, which I’ll leave unrevealed. But if you saw the original 1984 movie you could probably guess.
I wonder a lot about how hack directors get big-budgets to work with, and who their influences are. You would think that “Red Dawn” director Dan Bradley found inspiration from “Behind Enemy Lines” and “The Taking of Beverly Hills.” The hell with Quentin Genius Steadicam Tarantino as an inspiration!
I say that because Tarantino (or Jamie Cameron, or Kat Bigelow, or Chris Nolan) would never slice and dice their films, and cobble together elements as slipshod as this one. Or a decent screenwriter would at least supply expository dialogue to explain certain things. Like how come some captured Americans are thrown onto a football field turned into a prison camp, and why others are allowed to live in say, “Subway,” the deli chain eatery?
Yet the biggest howler of the movie takes place midway. The North Koreans have set up a media address, but the Wolverines are hiding in tall abandoned buildings waiting to take their shot. Their goal is to assassinate the evil Captain Cho (Will Yun Lee). But the plan doesn’t go 100% the way they predicted, so we’re given one of those moments where Hemsworth, the leading action hero, lays down the order to “Hold your fire.” All I could think of was “Hold your fire… What For!” Hemsworth still sticks his head out the window, revealing his location. Gee, I suppose the reasoning is that if they take their shot, the movie would be over too early.
I cheered a few times when the Wolverines did some run and gun shooting and blew up enemy tanks with C4 and all that. But the movie probably needed to be dumber. Think of all the really fun action avenger movies that benefit from gutsy, hold nothing back dumbness – when you get that kind of entertainment with gung-ho machismo with plucky girl sidekicks it is shamelessly irresistible. And no, the original 1984 “Red Dawn” wasn’t any better either. That also was earnest, square-jawed and senseless.
114 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
ACTION & ADVENTURE / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “Taps” (1981); “Red Dawn” (1984); “Invasion U.S.A.” (1985); “Toy Soldiers” (1991).